Disney Animation's 'Wreck-It Ralph,' opening in 3,700 theaters, is expected to rule the box office, and gross somewhere in the $45 million range.
The digitally animated film is poised to show that Disney animation is back on track, capable of producing films on the level of much-lauded Pixar. Building on the success of last year's 'Tangled' it's clear that Pixar chief John Lasseter's oversight of Disney Animation, is working.
Reviews of 'Ralph' have been nearly universally positive, with ratings scores on Metacritic and Rottentomatoes.com of 72 and 85 out of 100 respectively, more positive than the last Pixar film, 'Brave.' The New York Times' A.O. Scott calls the movie a "93-minute blast of color, noise, ingenuity and fun," saying that obliterates any cynicism about the seemingly limitless merchandising potential. Needless to say, the film's video game theme lends itself well to a range of consumer products and theme park rides. (Read More: Analysts Applaud Disney's LucasFilm Acquisition)
The big question: how much will Hurricane Sandy eat into results for Ralph and the other big films opening this weekend: Paramount's "Flight" and Universal's "The Man with the Iron Fists" also open wide. About a quarter of Disney's box office take from its recent films have come from the 10 major markets hit by the storm. (Read More: Reborn - American Drive-In Movie Theaters)
About 300 theaters were closed earlier this week, although as of Thursday, fewer than 200 were closed and more are expected to open for the weekend. It's unclear if people will want to hit theaters, or with gas shortages and so much damage, they're more likely to stay home. Close to no tickets were sold on Monday and Tuesday — and the theater chains like AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Imax, as well as the studios are sure to lose millions of dollars in revenue.
The question is whether people will see an escape to a heated theater as a welcome respite from the storm, or whether it seems frivolous and unnecessary after the storm tragically took so many lives.
-By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
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